Far and away, the most widely-read articles on this blog address the issue of Christian singleness. I get a lot of feedback from the singles who read them, the mothers who forward them to their grown children, and the angry readers who respond like I tried to rewrite the Old Testament.
The article addresses “friendgirls,” that is, single women who find themselves providing intimate friendship to relationally needy men who never take the relationship anywhere romantically.
Recently, I heard from Elizabeth McCormick, an aspiring filmmaker, about the impact it has had on her to be a friendgirl. She agreed to share her story here, and I think you’ll find her frankness painfully refreshing.
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My name’s Elizabeth. I’m a 23-year-old Christian and a graduate student in Film Directing. I’m single and always have been. I’ve never been on a second date. I’ve never even been in a relationship. But wait – that’s not true. I’ve been in relationships with plenty of guys – as a mere friendgirl, but I didn’t realize it until recently.
Last summer, Jen Harrison wrote a guest piece for this blog, boldly sharing her story of being a friendgirl. When I read “Stop Settling for Scraps, Ladies,” I broke down. I knew God wanted me to read Jen’s article, to hear her echo everything I had been feeling for years, to know I wasn’t the only one who had sold myself short.
And, just as Jen described it, I was settling for scraps when it came to my opposite-gender relationships. I was the perpetual friendgirl – but I had always been the friendgirl. In fact, when I read the article, I was still a friendgirl to one of my high school friendboys. It had become a way of life for me, and it was hard to imagine not relating to men that way.
It’s a vicious cycle, being a friendgirl, and I know from my own experience that there are two reasons I fall into the friendgirl habit.
The first is my insecurity. I am often afraid the guys I like are out of my league, and I assume they want someone prettier or cooler than me. I think, “Well, I know I can’t get him as a boyfriend, but maybe if he’d deign to be my friend, at least I could hang out with him” (NEWS FLASH, LADIES: It is easy to make friends with guys. I’ve never had a problem becoming close friends with any of the guys I’ve been attracted to, but just being friends gets old after a while).
The second reason I developed an addiction to friendgirl/friendboy relationships relates to the clash of my oversexed environment and my spirituality. While college and graduate school are full of available prospects, they are less-than-ideal places to enter mature dating relationships. Sure, there are guys on campus who are attracted to me; but unfortunately, most of them only want one thing – and it’s the one thing I can’t give them.
Once I tell guys where I stand, they lose interest in dating. And why wouldn’t they? In my world, “dating” is what you do with the person you’re sleeping with. As a Christian, that’s not what I want, and I won’t compromise for the sake of relational intimacy.
So instead of “dating,” I’ve settled for being a friendgirl. But I’m not asking for pity, because I don’t believe I’ve been a victim. In fact, I’ve been just as guilty as my friendboys. In being their friendgirl, I’ve still gotten emotional intimacy from them without having to sacrifice my virtue. But it still hurts whenever any of these guys dates a different girl, talks about their latest hookup, or gazes at me fondly, but never reaches out for me.
After reading Jen’s article, I finally recognized the pattern in my own life. One particular relationship stood out. I had been in a friendgirl/friendboy relationship with this guy for two years. We did nearly everything together – loved the same things, partied together, and made movies for film school together.
Sometime that winter, he stopped contacting me as much. His roommates wouldn’t explain why he was acting so strange. He had started dating someone else, but not only had he kept it from me, so had all of his roommates. Clearly, he had known of my attraction to him but didn’t want to hurt my feelings by exposing his new relationship. It was humiliating, and after reading Jen’s article, I realized I did not want it to happen again – but it already had.
Like I said at the beginning, I was still in a relationship with a friendboy from high school when I read Jen’s article. Rather than continue being the friendgirl, I decided to go cold turkey. I immediately de-friended him on Facebook (I know, it was extreme, right?). I stopped calling him for those hour-long conversations on the phone. And after I backed away – well, he didn’t really notice, and he didn’t even call for several months.
When he did call, my attraction for him had evaporated (which makes it a lot easier to avoid being a friendgirl), and I set boundaries for our friendship. Not only that, after examining my relationships with my other male friends, I can say I’m nobody’s friendgirl anymore. And when a relationship even gets close, I run in the other direction.
While I’m proud I broke the habit, I will be the last person to say it’s easy. It’s not. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Being a friendgirl is as comfortable as it is painful. Eliminating the addiction didn’t eliminate the problems (especially loneliness); but it helped me confront them honestly, rather than use unhealthy relationships to Band-Aid them.
I regularly thank God for leading me to Jen’s words and advice. In the meantime, as I walk this thing out, I pray He will send a good man who isn’t just looking for a girly buddy to hang out with – a man who would rather take me out on dates than sleep in my bed. Though these prayers have yet to be answered, I believe that one day, with Jesus’ help, they will.