16 Ways to Create Healthy, Intimate Friendships
We’re going to address one type of relationship we don’t always think of as intimate—friendships with those of the same gender. Intimate friendships with someone of the opposite sex (that’s not your spouse) isn’t necessarily a no-no whether you’re married or single, but it does require special boundaries and limitations to maintain the purity that God calls us to in scripture.
You’ll also get some practical exercises and a very cool post-able and printable infographic.
True friendships are something we treasure especially when there’s spiritual intimacy. And nothing binds two people together as much as difficulty. When we are in a spiritual warfare, battling to overcome temptation, sin, and character weaknesses, like-minded companions provide courage. They see the best in us even when we are at our worst. And we can borrow their faith when ours fails.
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
These types of friendships are supernatural. They require us to reach not only outside of ourselves but outside our friendships for the strength to be what our friends need.
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
The Third Strand
Who’s the third strand? Who binds friends together when circumstances and human nature vie to rip them apart? God, the author of relationships, who had his Son and the Spirit present at Creation (Genesis 1:26).
God craves intimacy with us, but he also wants us to have intimacy with one another (John 17:6-24).
So here’s 16 practical ways to build intimacy with friends of the same gender.
#1 Read a book together and discuss it in-depth.
This could be a self-help book, a business book, or fiction. If one of you doesn’t enjoy reading, hook up with Audible.com so you can listen to the book during your commute or while you do chores or errands.
#2 Share honestly about your struggles.
To keep it from turning into a gripe session, always finish with how you plan to positively address your issue (James 5:16).
#3 Ask them to teach you how to do something they are good at.
Let them shine! When we communicate to others our respect for an area they are good at (and we’re not), it sends their self-confidence through the roof. They’ll think you’re the best friend in the world.
#4 Don’t offer advice unless they ask for it.
Believe it or not, you are not helping your friend if you try to “fix” their problem. Respect them enough to let them know that you believe they can work out their situation with God’s help (James 1:19).
#5 Plan a special activity that your friend enjoys.
Put yourself second on purpose. The rush you get from planning something like this is what great friendships are all about!
#6 Pray for them daily.
This may seem trivial to some, but when you regularly ask the Creator of both of you to act in your lives, be prepared for some life-changing answers (James 5:16).
#7 Remember their important days.
Remembering birthdays and anniversaries is a basic. Make it special for them. Balloons, cake, the works. If they don’t have family that celebrates it, making a big deal of it will make their week!
#8 Ask them how they are doing first.
“Consider others more important than yourself” (Philippians 2:3). Not only is it good for your friendship, it’s good for you to practice putting others first. You never know what they may be going through and your urgent issue may shrink from a glacier to a popsicle in light of their situation.
#9 Make a meal for them (and their family).
There’s something magical about eating a home-cooked meal together. The thought, time, energy, and money that is sacrificed is profound. It’s binding, personal, and caring someone cooking a meal just for you (Romans 12:13).
#10 Offer to watch their kids so they can have time for themselves.
Your friend may have to ask you to repeat your question when you ask because they won’t believe it. Plus, if you’ve been debating about having kids of your own, this could be the best childbirth prevention method ever!
#11 Become their fan at something they do well.
Feeling like we’re valuable enough to be support by people outside of our family is HUGE! Get creative: Make a poster, fabric paint a t-shirt or cap with their name on it and watch their confidence shoot through the roof!
#12 Encourage them to grow in an area they admit is a weakness.
Be an example by sharing your attempts to change something in your own character via a book, a workshop, or online class. Share “war” stories as you overcome and celebrate victories together (2 Corinthians 6:11-13).
#13 Agree to disagree about some things.
Great friendships are forged by melding people with different strengths, weaknesses, and opinions. Plus, contrary views force us to evaluate our own for flaws. Only when our beliefs are challenged can they be refined (Philippians 3:15).
#14 Forgive them when they hurt you.
Also, learn to say, “I’m sorry.” You are both human and will therefore hurt each other; it’s just a matter of time. Maintaining your friendship is more valuable than holding a grudge (Ephesians 4:31-32).
#15 Don’t expect them to always take your advice.
They’re not your child or spouse. Respect them enough to let them make their own decisions. If your advice proves wisest among their advisers, give the glory to the one who deserves it anyway—God (Proverbs 11:14).
#16 Keep your promises.
Not only is your word your bond, its represents the depth of your integrity. Someone who won’t keep their promise is a liar and will quickly find themselves without friends (Psalm 15:4).
If you read The Intimacy Manifesto but haven’t created your own manifesto for your circle of safe others, stop now and do it. If you feel brave enough and want to dive into the deep end of the pool, read your manifesto aloud to your friend.
…or Test the Waters
You can enter the shallow end of the pool by implementing a few of the methods above to test the waters and see if your friendship will be reciprocated. Jot down 2-3 ideas in your journal and how you plan to implement them. Set dates, places, ideas, etc.
Remember, intimacy is something we do on purpose. It doesn’t happen by accident.