YOUNG PEOPLE ASK
Friendship or Romance?—Part 2: What Signals Am I Sending?
You like to be available when a friend needs to talk. And lately you’ve been talking to one friend a lot. The problem is, it’s someone of the opposite sex. ‘We’re just friends,’ you tell yourself, assuming that the other person feels the same way. Should you be concerned?
What can happen
It’s not wrong to have friends of the opposite sex. But what if you develop a special friendship with one person over others? In that case, he or she may well conclude that you want more than friendship.
Not the message you want to send? Consider some ways that it might happen, even inadvertently.
You give someone too much attention.
“Although you can’t control someone else’s feelings, you shouldn’t add fuel to the fire by saying you’re just friends but then calling and talking to that person all the time.”—Sierra.
You respond to someone’s attention.
“I didn’t initiate the texting, but I always replied to one girl’s numerous messages. After that, it was difficult for me to explain to her that I viewed her as just a friend.”—Richard.
You encourage someone’s attention.
“Some people think flirting is a game. They play with others’ feelings without being serious about a relationship. I’ve seen it happen repeatedly, and someone always gets hurt.”—Tamara.
The bottom line: Regular communication and attention send signals of romantic interest.
Why it matters
It hurts the other person.
The Bible says: “Expectation postponed makes the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12) What expectation would you have if someone kept sending you signals of romantic interest?
“There’s an expression, ‘Keeping someone on the hook.’ It refers to when you’ve caught a fish but you neither release it nor reel it in. That can happen in a relationship. If you aren’t interested in dating but you keep someone ‘on the hook,’ you will cause that person a lot of pain.”—Jessica.
It hurts your reputation.
The Bible says: “Look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4) What trait would you ascribe to someone who looks out only for himself or herself? How might that affect the person’s reputation?
“A boy who flirts with girls is unattractive to me. And flirting may be a foregleam of disloyalty in marriage. It’s using someone to give you an ego-boost, and that’s selfish.”—Julia.
The bottom line: People who send signals of romantic interest with no intention of pursuing a relationship hurt others and themselves.
What you can do
The Bible says to treat “younger men as brothers” and “younger women as sisters, with all chasteness.” (1 Timothy 5:1, 2) If you adhere to that standard, you will protect your friendships with those of the opposite sex.
“If I were married, I wouldn’t flirt with someone else’s spouse. It’s good practice for me now, while single, to be balanced when dealing with the opposite sex.”—Leah.
The Bible says: “When words are many, transgression cannot be avoided.” (Proverbs 10:19) That principle applies not only to conversations but also to texting—including the frequency and the content of your communication.
“There’s really no need to text a girl on a daily basis unless you plan on dating her.”—Brian.
The Bible says: “The wisdom from above is first of all pure.” (James 3:17) A hug can be given in a pure way—or it could be taken as a sign of romantic interest.
“I try to keep my conversations friendly but at arm’s length—literally and figuratively.”—Maria.
The bottom line: Carefully scrutinize your conduct with the opposite sex. “Good friendships are hard to come by,” says a teenager named Jennifer, “and you don’t want to ruin them by sending mixed signals.”
Pay attention to others’ comments. If someone asks, “Are you and so-and-so dating?” it might indicate that you’ve gotten too close.
Be consistent with your friends of the opposite sex. Do not single out one person and give him or her more attention than others.
Be careful with texting—including the frequency of the texts, their content, and the time of day that you send them. “You don’t need to be texting someone of the opposite sex at midnight,” says a girl named Alyssa.